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Stocks Tumble on Eurozone Uncertainty


NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stocks lost ground Wednesday as worries about the stability of the eurozone bubbled up once again.

The major U.S. equity indices swooned late in the day following reports that Greek banks are seeing elevated levels of withdrawals ahead of the country's crucial general elections this weekend. The vote is being seen as a referendum on the austerity measures Greece will need to adhere to in order to remain part of the eurozone.

Adding to the concerns was news that Egan Jones cut its rating on Spain to CCC-plus from B. Reuters said the downgrade was the ratings agency's fourth cut for Spain since April.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 77 points, or 0.62%, to close at 12,496. The blue-chip index, which ranged roughly 150 points during the day, has now fallen in two of the past three sessions.

The S&P 500 lost 9 points, or 0.70%, to close at 1315. The Nasdaq gave back more than 24 points, or 0.86%, to settle at 2819.

Stocks briefly went positive earlier in the session as much of the market's attention was on the morning's testimony of JPMorgan Chase (JPM - Get Report) CEO Jamie Dimon on Capitol Hill.

Within the Dow, 20 of the index's 30 components ended Wednesday down. The biggest blue-chip decliners included American Express (AXP), Caterpillar (CAT), DuPont (DD) and Home Depot (HD).

The biggest percentage gainers were Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and JPMorgan. Three blue-chip stocks ended Wednesday flat: Coca-Cola (KO), AT&T (T) and Pfizer (PFE).

J&J's stock was boosted more than 2% by upgrades from Jefferies and JPMorgan, which lifted its rating to overweight and boosted its price target to $74 from $69. The firm cited an attractive valuation and said fundamentals "were on the upswing" at J&J. For its part, Jefferies raised its rating to buy from hold.

"Management has beaten expectations by re-engineering the financing of the Synthes merger," wrote Jefferies of J&J. "Instead of a dilutive stock issuance followed by a share buyback program, the company has borrowed stock through an accelerated share repurchase agreement, which transforms the transaction into an accretive deal."

Shares of JPMorgan gained 1.6% as Dimon's appearance before the Senate Banking Committee drew mostly positive reviews. Dimon said JPMorgan was looking at potentially clawing back pay from the executives behind the bank's $2 billion trading loss.
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